Courtesy Reuters

Scholars and policy analysts seem almost obsessed with China's continuing rise toward the status of a great power. Debates rage about whether there is a "China threat" to East Asia or the United States, how to measure China's present military and economic power, and which trends best project China's growth into the next century. Less attention has been given to how Chinese government analysts view their own security environment. Because they influence the thinking of government decision-makers and are privy to their thoughts, an analysis of their views on security is valuable. By providing a better understanding of both China's baseline realpolitik view of international politics and two significant divergences from that baseline -- Beijing's attitudes toward Japan and Taiwan -- such a study can help contribute to a more prudent American East Asia strategy.ffi

China may well be the high church of realpolitik in the post-Cold War world.

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  • Thomas J. Christensen is assistant professor of government at Cornell University and author of Useful Adversaries: Grand Strategy, Domestic Mobilization, and Sino-American Conflict, 1947-58 from Princeton University Press. Research for this article was funded by the Asia Security Project at Harvard University's Olin Institute for Strategic Studies.
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